One thing that has remained constant over the years is that z Systems have always led the market with regard to security due to its unique architecture, and IBM has independent certification that z Systems, including LinuxONE, remain the most secure in the industry. Given the number and level of breaches enterprises have suffered during the past year, this level of security is a massive potential competitive advantage for IBM.
However, many of the recent breaches have been the result of targeted attacks on people with authorized access, so these benefits will still need to be heavily wrapped in strong security processes. But LinuxONE is doing its part with isolation at every level (applications, containers, virtual servers). It also supports full encryption of data and dedicated cryptographic processors.
Perhaps the part of this effort that most highlights that this is a new way of doing things for IBM and the mainframe is the Open Mainframe Project. IBM is committing to driving this open source project (with help from the Linux Foundation) through substantial funding and company resources, including IBM Linux Technology Centers, open source community contributions, academic initiative and training programs, and open access to mainframe community clouds.
For proof of concept, IBM provided an example LinuxONE implementation: the Dream ALS Challenge. Using Docker on IBM z, this is a massive effort to create a cure for ALS and it is backed by Sage, Prize4Life, Origent, Pro-Act, Biogen, Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, Biogen, and Lilly. The performance of this system was critical to this effort with analytics models running securely at 2x to 7x faster than competing platforms. The result is a massive collaborative effort allowing a huge number of researchers to work together to find solutions for this debilitating disease.
LinuxONE is a huge play for IBM and fascinating because it pulls from the past and future market directions to come up with something unique and very powerful. It is a blend of old IBM, where the vendor took most of the technology risk because they believed deeply in that technology and are best at security, availability and performance, and the new IBM, which is focused on choice, flexibility and mobility.
What you look for in a new offering is something that is well-differentiated and has the chance to better address the needs enterprises and large businesses have in this rapidly changing world. LinuxONE is arguably one of the best efforts I’ve ever seen to combine the best of the past with the concepts of the future to create something new and compelling. I expect that, as with a lot of interesting products, many IT folks won’t realize they were longing for this until they see it.
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